A new study from the American Red Cross reveals that 4 in 10 American teenagers believe foreign countries should be allowed to torture captured American troops. The study also found that 6 in 10 teenagers support America torturing foreign soldiers, and more than half believe it is justified for the US to kill foreign prisoners of war who have killed Americans.
Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard professor of constitutional law, believes that American teenagers are simply less able to empathize with American soldiers. “For young people,” he told The Daily Beast, “to put themselves in place of a soldier is a level of empathy that most people simply don’t have anymore.” Part of the reason may be the lack of a military draft and mandatory military service.
Legal scholars believe torture could just seem natural to a generation that came of age immediately after September 11th, when conservatives argued that torturing enemy combatants, even in violation of the Geneva Conventions, was necessary to protect the United States against terrorism. Isabelle Doust, the head of the humanitarian law division of the American Red Cross, told The Daily Beast that “over the past 10 years, they’ve been exposed to many new conflicts, but they haven’t been exposed to the rules.”
They also have not been exposed to the fact that torture is ineffective and counterproductive.
One irony was revealed in a striking study earlier this year from Brown University showing that enhanced interrogations may not even be an effective way to gather intelligence. Compared with traditional police questioning techniques like building rapport or offering positive reinforcement, the study found that torture more frequently alienates the subject, or produces unreliable information. The marquee example researchers point to is the Libyan detainee in 2002 who, under torture, claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, a major premise in launching the war in Iraq. [The Daily Beast]